New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai: A Thousand Lanterns and Wishes in the Sky!

I stood on a parapet watching in awe, surrounded by people as they cheered and counted down to the New Year. Almost everyone had lit their paper lanterns by now, and as the clock ticked to midnight and firecrackers went off in the sky, we released our lanterns with a feeling of joy that’s difficult to put into words. As the lanterns drifted away into the sky, creating the illusion of a thousand twinkling stars, I felt like parts of my past, and all the fears and challenges of 2017, had drifted away too. A surreal feeling.

Behold, a glimpse of the magic of celebrating New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai, Thailand:

new years eve chiang mai, chiang mai lantern, shivya nath

The joyful feeling of releasing my first lantern.

In the past three years, I’ve rung in the New Year in the strangest of ways – in 2016, laying out alone under a canopy of trees in rural Maharashtra, trying to see the stars from the gaps in between; in 2015, falling asleep before midnight in Sri Lanka; in 2014, in the visa-on-arrival queue in Bangkok after my Dubai plans fell through!

So as I stood in a Buddhist temple, holding my first paper lantern (thanks to this post I stumbled upon), waiting to let it go (usually takes 3-4 minutes after you set alight the waxy thing below), I knew this is finally going to be a New Year’s Eve to remember.

Also see: My Most Memorable Sunrises, Sunsets and Night Skies of 2016

buddhist monks thailand, new year's eve chiang mai, chiang mai in december

Buddhist monks release a sky lantern. Photo: John Shedrick (CC)

Legend has it that the first paper lantern was built and released by a Chinese military man in the third century, with a message asking for help against an enemy that had surrounded their platoon!

These days, in Thailand, many locals believe that releasing a lantern will release their worries and fears, while I’ve heard that for Buddhist monks, the release tends to get them closer to the path of enlightenment.

Also read: Lessons on the Art of Living, in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

lantern festival thailand, new year chiang mai, thai new year 2017

The crowds at Tha Phae gate around 8 pm!

They say the Yee Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai sees many more people and lanterns, but surrounded by the crowds at Tha Phae Gate, that was hard to believe!

tha phae gate, chiang mai new years eve, chiang mai december

Close to midnight, more people release their lanterns.

As my lantern slowly drifted away into the sky, it made me feel like I was letting go… of the materialistic things I’ve been holding on to, ugly memories of the past and 2017 itself.

Also read: 17 Incredible Travel (and Life) Moments of 2017

chiang mai new years, chiang mai festival, chiang mai new years eve 2018

A magical sight ❤ Photo: Guy Tetreault (CC)

Then the sky filled with a thousand lanterns and wishes, making me forget that I usually can’t stand crowded, noisy places. As I gazed up at the lanterns, an indescribable feeling washed over me.

chiang mai lantern, thailand lantern festival, new years eve chiang mai

Letting go off 2017.

Video: The magic of New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai!

I made a short video trying to capture that feeling, of watching thousands of lanterns drift away in the dark night sky. Wish you an enchanting 2018!

Practical Tips: Celebrating New Year in Chiang Mai

Where to celebrate: Tha Phae Gate in the old city of Chiang Mai is the centre of the celebrations. People start gathering from 7 pm onwards, till past midnight. If you arrive early, go to some of the nearby Buddhist temples (follow the direction of the lanterns floating in the sky) to release your first paper lantern amid Buddhist chanting.

Where to buy sky paper lanterns: These can be bought at the Buddhist temples, or from vendors at Tha Phae Gate. In 2017, they cost 40-60 Baht.

Environmental impact of paper lanterns: The lanterns are primarily made of rice paper, and have a thin wire below on which is attached a small piece of wax, to be set alight to release the lantern. Hot air created by the flames pushes the lantern up in the air. The paper is biodegradable; the wire is presumably not. According to the Guardian, sky lanterns have been banned in Vietnam.

What’s been your most memorable New Year’s Eve?

Connect with me on InstagramFacebookTwitter and Google+ to follow my adventures, and subscribe to my Youtube Channel for weekly videos!

Featured image: John Shedrick (CC)
New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai: A Thousand Lanterns and Wishes in the Sky! published first on

Author: accuhunt

Physical Educator and sports coach from 6 years , with degree in sports science and physical education from RLT University in US. Coach of football, skating, hockey and rugby teams. Now working as Sports development officer in Perth city. Contributor of sports training articles to improve sports performance in athletes. Well college football is an place where many inspiring stories surface and touch the heart. It is also a place where the passions of players, desires of coaches and expectations of community meld to form a different atmosphere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s